53. Newspaper Blackout Poems by Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon describes himself as “a writer who draws.”

He says, additionally, “I’m a visual thinker who is obsessed with the art of communicating with pictures and words, together. I love to write about the subject and teach it. I draw cartoons and take visual notes at live events in my sketchbook…My day job is designing websites.”

:kleon's "comics and information design mind map.":

My favorite thing that he does is called the “Newspaper Blackout Poem.” The description that Kleon offers is simply


In the eloquent words of NPR’s Morning Edition:

“A poet in Texas is blacking out words in order to write. Instead of starting with a blank page, Austin Kleon grabs the New York Times and a permanent marker and eliminates the words he doesn’t need.”

I’m not a huge fan of his poetry. I don’t think it’s particularly enlightening or beautiful or expositional. But I do think that the idea is really, really cool and original, and I think that a lot of value lies in that originality alone. The concept of “visual thinking” is one that I’ve always been intrigued by (that’s why I’m an art history major), and one that I think is too often ignored or overlooked. Kleon addresses it in a pretty unique way.

Here’s how he starts:


:the beginning of the process:

I also like how this medium is (seems?) extremely accessible. Anyone can grab the paper and a marker and start creating – and I like the encouragement toward art that this suggests. Art doesn’t have to be limited to the Greats. Anyone can do it. And with public school programs being cut and more and more people struggling to get jobs, art is an important getaway.

Okay. Here are some cool examples of Kleon’s work.

Home Depot


:kleon insists this is not about his wife:

The Best Education


:one of his best, i think:

How It Works



Crime Scene Tape


:actually pretty clever. and i like the connect-the-dots.:

This next one reminds me of the super super cliche Joyce Kilmer poem:


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Trees Are Gestures


:kinda interesting to look at them together:

Same Swords


:i actually think this one is pretty good:

And finally, to sum everything up:

Visual Thinking


:the moral of it all:

November 8, 2009. Art, Culture, Periodicals, Rectangles, Websites.

One Comment

  1. Daniel replied:

    This is great! I love “How it works,” but I’m with you on the basis of the creativity, not necessarily the product. Still cool!

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